It happens all the time: A product looks terrific according to the online reviews and so you buy it. In no time at all you discover it was a foolish purchase — maybe too cheaply made, maybe not exactly the correct specifications or there is some other issue with it. That’s when you ask yourself how it got such glowing reviews.
Your Better Business Bureau warns that those reviews may have been fake. There are companies out there that pay to have positive reviews written. Some will plant negative reviews on competitors’ products. The conscientious consumer can end up wondering who to trust in the wild jungle of online reviews. After all, the Internet has developed a reputation for duplicity and nowhere is it more evident than in the online review game. Here is the BBB’s advice.
Learn to spot the fakes
Studies have shown that many people are terrible at spotting fake online reviews. Inc. magazine recently found that a panel of participants in an experiment could spot fake reviews less than 50 percent of the time. Watch for these tell-tale signs of a fake:
• A lack of detail. When a review uses only the broadest and most general terms it may not be genuine. Fictionalized accounts may use a lot of wording to set the scene or talk about the “background” to their acquisition while saying very little specifically about the product (or the hotel, for instance).
• Over use of first person pronouns. Words like “I” and “me” show up more frequently in fake reviews as the writers are trying a bit too hard to sound sincere and genuine.
• Short reviews. When attempting to raise the star rating of a product, lots of short, positive reviews will be planted.
• Overly emotional language. This can be an attempt to pull in the reader with emotion rather than hard facts.
• Reading the reviewers other reviews can reveal a pattern that can raise suspicion.
• Many reviews within a short time span. This can indicate being paid to write glowing reviews.
• Look for “verified purchase” reviews. These carry more weight as legitimate reviews.
BBB’s reliable customer reviews
For customer reviews of businesses, brands and charities, the BBB can be a reliable source. Reviews are vetted by BBB team members. Here are some of the ways BBB reviews are different from other online reviews:
• They are consistently processed in an ethical, fair and unbiased manner.
• Each review is itself reviewed by BBB staff.
• No anonymous reviews are allowed.
• Reviewers’ identity is protected by not posting any personally identifiable information.
• Email addresses of reviewers are validated.
• BBB may work with both consumer and business to help resolve any outstanding issues.
• Data within reviews is used to help investigate businesses.
• Reviews are sent to businesses in an effort to give them a chance to provide additional feedback to address a reviewer’s concerns.
The BBB draws on its over 100 year-old reputation as a trusted marketplace resource as it vets reviews and provides them to consumers. That vetting process eliminates fake reviews from BBB websites, thereby providing a valuable tool for both consumers and businesses.
If you have questions or concerns about online reviews, contact your BBB by calling 800-856-2417, or visit the website at bbbinc.org.